China living in denial of NK's status as an ally

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-2-24 18:13:00

There used to be some sympathy in Asia for North Korea and its striving defiance of the US and others that it sees as enemies. But now, even China, the long viewed ally of North Korea, sees North Korea's defiance as a nuisance.

In response to a UN Security Council resolution in late January that strengthened sanctions over North Korea's December rocket launch and for which China voted, Pyongyang claimed it would end talks on denuclearization efforts and carry out a third nuclear test.

Its strident announcement has put China, one that pushes forward the Six-Party Talks, in an awkward position.

The North even criticized China without explicitly naming it in a statement, "Those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principles, under the influence of the US arbitrary and high-handed practices, and failing to come to their senses."

North Korea has never cared about China's attitude. When it needs China's assistance, it would please China by saying flattering words such as China's achievements of its reform and opening-up. But after it gets what it wants, it would show indifference to the policy.

When North Korea makes big decisions, it would rather inform Washington than Beijing.

Before it launched the satellite in April 2012, North Korea had already informed the US in December 2011. When the news was released, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs felt embarrassed when asked if it had known about the launch.

This is the reality of the China-North Korea relationship. The North sees it as less important than its relationship with the US.

If North Korea gradually gets closer to the US and the US admits it as a nuclear state, the rest of the international community would follow. But China doesn't have such influence. The North knows this clearly.

The North has been good at seeking a balance among world powers and looking out for its own interests by making use of competition among others.

North Koreans, as well as some Chinese, believe that the country, standing on China's east door, has been a guard of regional security for its neighbor. Therefore, no matter what North Korea does, China is supposed to support it to make it stable. This prompted North Korea's intention to use this as diplomatic leverage on China.

China has leverage too. It is the main source of the North's food, arms and fuel. Without these, North Korea cannot sustain itself, let alone carry out nuclear tests.

Nonetheless, China has never exercised this leverage. China even claims that it does not have much influence on North Korea. The North, however, picks up what China said and turns to the US, trying to bypass China in the Six-Party Talks.

China is mistakenly viewed as the only country with any real influence over North Korea. People forget the US has powerful arms, which the North holds in awe.

In this respect, North Korea takes a pragmatic approach. China's economic influence on the North has been declining in the face of the military strength of the US.

The North has never viewed China as an ally. Even if the two ever had friendship, China has already lost North Korea.

The North has always been wary of China's influence. In the 1950s, it introduced the ideology of Juche, which says that the Korean people are the masters of their country's development. It also opposed flunkeyism, an idea which traditionally referred to subordination to Chinese Confucian culture and then meant subservience to foreign influence.

North Korea used to count on China to shield it from the US' threat and pressure of the UN Security Council. When China didn't do what the North wanted it to, the North would turn hostile, as it did this time.

Developing nuclear weapons is North Korea's national policy. It's not a bargaining chip that North Korea will give up under any circumstances.

North Korea may pretend to do so in order to get economic assistance from other countries and wait for the right timing, but will never follow through with it.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Wang Wenwen based on an interview with Zhang Liangui, an expert on North Korea at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC.

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